Skip to content

Toggle service links

Listening to your study material Studying on a screen

As individuals, students all have different learning processes. Some students with and without disabilities, find audio is much more effective as a learning tool than text. You might want to listen to your study materials for a variety of reasons. It could be that you struggle to read materials in print or on screen due to a visual impairment, or a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, or because you experience migraines. 

Audio versions of module materials can be useful when you're on the move, on your daily commute, when travelling, or when away from home. You can also listen while doing other activities, such as household chores.  

Whatever the reason, there are several options available to consider when working with your Open University (OU) module materials. 

Options for listening to audio versions of module materials 

Currently there are five main ways of generating or listening to audio versions of module materials: 

  • read aloud functions built into the operating system on your device such as Windows, Google Chrome, Apple, Adobe PDF, Kindle and ePub
  • dedicated text-to-speech software packages  
  • SensusAccess conversion provided by the OU library 
  • screen readers 
  • DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) talking books 

You should experiment with each to find which works best for you. Below is a quick guide to the advantages and disadvantages of each format. 

Read aloud  

This is the simplest solution as it works with the technology you already have and doesn’t require any additional software. It’s suitable for: 

  • students with dyslexia who struggle to read text on a screen 
  • students with ADHD who struggle to concentrate when reading on a screen
  • students without a print disability who favour audio over text.


  • versatile, can be used with all your electronic text, not just your OU study materials
  • free
  • a range of good quality voices and accents
  • controllable speed 
  • simple to use functions  
  • makes editing your work easier and quicker as you’ll hear errors.  


  • navigation through text can be awkward on certain document formats and websites  
  • can struggle with mathematical notation.

You can find out how to enable this function and how to change other accessibility options such as font size, contrast and colours in the Computing Guide, How to apply accessibility settings.

Text-to-speech software 

This type of software can be free, but the more sophisticated versions can be quite expensive. Examples of text-to-speech software include ClaroRead and Read and Write, both by TextHelp. Text-to-speech software is suitable for: 

  • students with dyslexia who struggle to read text on a screen 
  • students with ADHD who struggle to concentrate when reading on a screen 
  • students studying maths modules. 


  • some free versions are available 
  • versatile, can be used with all your electronic text and most OU study material formats 
  • navigation can be easier than read aloud 
  • paid for versions can be supplied to disabled students as part of a Disabled Students Allowance 
  • a good range of voices to choose from. 


  • paid for versions can be expensive 
  • may need additional software for technical terminology and mathematical notation 
  • additional charges for add-ons such as different voices 
  • may struggle to play videos embedded into text  
  • it can take more time and effort to learn how to use the tools. 


SenusAccess, provided by the OU library, is a system to convert any text into audio MP3 files, or formats such as ePub or Adobe PDF which also have read aloud functionality.  


  • provided by the OU library for free 
  • good for generating MP3 files which can be downloaded and played on multiple devices 
  • you only need to convert the documents you need 
  • you can keep permanent audio files of the documents you convert 
  • converts multiple file types. 


  • navigation through text can be awkward on certain document formats and websites 
  • not always accurate if the document is old and hasn’t been structured well 
  • will struggle with complex mathematical notation and scientific symbols especially if the document is older 
  • has a maximum file size meaning it can’t convert several books at once  
  • only available to students with a print disability such as dyslexia or people with visual impairment. 

Screen readers  

Screen readers or screen reading software is different from using text-to-speech software as its intended to replace the visual experience of navigating and reading more fully on screen. Screen readers such as JAWS or NVDA are used by people who are blind or partially sighted. 

If you think that a screen reader would better suit your needs, the article Blind or partially sighted tells you more about what adaptations may be helpful to you. You can also contact your student support team (SST) for advice and support. 

DAISY talking books 

DAISY talking books are an older approach to providing audio representations of your module materials with built in navigation and accessibility features, allowing you to listen to text at the same time as viewing it on screen.  

If DAISY talking books are available for a module, all students can download and use them. However, for copyright reasons, some content (such as set books) may only be available to students who have told us they have a disability. 

DAISY books are not a replacement for your primary module materials and some content, such as interactive content on your module website, might not be available in this format.  

DAISY is particularly useful for students studying a maths module. 


  • free 
  • available from your module website for all students to use 
  • easy navigation  
  • excellent for maths and scientific formulae 
  • human and synthesised voices 
  • good accessibility features 
  • talking books can be downloaded and used offline. 


  • not available for all modules 
  • additional software needed to use with DAISY 
  • not as versatile. 

Further information on DAISY books and the software needed to use them can be found in the  Computing Guide

Getting further support

At the OU, we create accessible online study materials for all learners (although how you study and the types of learning materials will vary from module to module). You don't need to tell us about a disability or provide supporting evidence to access these. See Adjustments and support available through the OU.

If you've told us about, or now want to tell us and provide evidence of, a disability or health condition, you may be able to request adjustments such as assistive technology. You can contact the Disability Support Team to discuss your needs.

Last updated 1 month ago